Pageant Essentials: Beauty, Butt Glue, and Bronzer

Radiance Talley

Radiance Talley

Eighty-six beautiful girls stepped onto the stage, dawning their best smiles, high heels and faces made up to perfection. All were hopeful that they would be crowned the next Maryland Teen USA Pageant winner, but knowing that only one could win.  After several months of raising funds and shopping for the perfect dress, several days of final prepping with the experts, and several hours practicing, primping, and being paraded before judges, within minutes, it was all over!  One lovely deserving girl took home the crown, the remaining eighty-five hopefuls packed their things somberly: some in shock, some sobbing in their parents arms, and others holding back tears while comforting the other girls.

So Many Lessons Learned

My daughter participated in the 2014 Miss Maryland Teen USA Pageant on November 2-3, 2013 and was one of the eighty- five that left without the crown. And, although she did not win the crown, nevertheless she left a winner.  She was a winner because she took a risk and tried something outside her comfort zone.  The Pageant world is a world of high heels and makeup; she had only worn makeup once before the Pageant and that was to get a photo for the Pageant. She is a winner because she learned valuable lessons that she would never have learned looking in from the outside.  For example, she remarked, “I had to wear a fake smile at times because there was so much to think about that I wasn’t really enjoying the experience.”  She said she got more joy out of reciting her poetry to audiences and tutoring little kids. She was a winner because she learned to experience loss with gratitude, grace, and beauty and to focus on others (which is her nature).

Radiance’s Most Notable Experience

Now the most fun was hands-down the Saturday night party. When I asked her to share one notable experience of the Pageant, her face lit up when she shared how she had helped the makeup artist who desperately needed someone to talk to. The lady had arrived late to do her makeup because she was sick,  had cancer, and was being treated meanly by the other makeup artists. Radiance joyfully concluded, “Maybe that was the whole reason I was there!” After the Pageant, while all the girls were scurrying around saying their final goodbyes, she insisted we find the makeup artist so she could get a picture with her as she had promised. The lady beamed and explained how she got goosebumps from talking to Radiance and felt that she was the winner. Radiance however felt that God’s Will had been done, “If I had won,” she said, “I’d have to wear a two piece bathing suit at the USA Pageant,” she said.  “And I feel that would be compromising my values.”

Well, that’s the overview.  In part 2 (SMH x2), I share my observations from a mother’s perspective on pageants.  Now, you’re probably wondering why I titled this article butt glue?  Well it is the one thing that can make or break a Pageant hopeful.  I didn’t even know what the stuff was.  Evidently all models and pageant people know about it.  It glues your swimsuit to your butt so that it doesn’t slide up or in.  You can even lose ten points from your score if that happens.  Imagine that!  As for the bronzer, they were selling that stuff at the orientation like it was the secret to the fountain of youth. Anyway, check out part two for my SMH conclusion.


What Does Your Hair Say About You?

What does your hair mean to you? Does it represent beauty, culture, image, or identity.  Is it your crown or crowning glory? 

This past week while speaking at a Domestic Violence Luncheon, a lady the table and I got into a discussion about black hair.  She said she dissuaded her son from wearing braids because of the prejudice that he would receive.  She said she also didn’t wear her hair natural in 2011 for fear of discrimination.

Last May I spoke to an audience in Florida at an event organized by 100 Concerned Black Women and the topic of hair came up.  My co-presenter Iris Cooper had cut off her hair and a lady in the audience who self reportedly had worn wigs most of her life challenged why she did it.  The next day the older lady came to a followup session dawning her own hair.  She recounted how freeing it was.  She somehow had felt she needed validation, permission, and acceptance to free herself.  She explained how all her life she was called ugly because of her short hair.  And, now there is another trend, cutting off our hair that we’ve taken so long to grow and  letting go of what “long hair” means.  How do you feel about cutting your hair off?   It appears that we’ve still got a lot of work to do before we get to the point that we realize that we don’t all have to look the same and can see our own naturalness as beautiful.  Please comment and share “your hair story.”

I’m Barbara Talley, the poet who speaks and inspires.  To find out more about me check out: What Does Barbara Do? or visit  my website.

A Candid Talk About Our Hair, Identity, and Respect

Years ago while doing a Diversity training, one of the participants remarked, “If you’d worn that yesterday, I wouldn’t have heard a word you said.” This comment was in response to a simple African hat I was wearing.  I know if I’d actually worn my hair naturally I would have had a greater challenge doing my Diversity work.  I love my hair because black hair is the most versatile hair in the world.  You can braid it, twist it, blow it out, straighten it, curl it, and even dread it.  But we haven’t always had the best products available if we want to keep it natural.   And so, we’ve been dreading how to handle our hair long before Chris Rock’s movie about “Good Hair.”

What does hair mean in this society?  What is considered “good hair” and beautiful, long or short, blond or dark, or straight or curly.  Culturally and historically, what messages have been subconsciously ingrained in us that drive our current views and choices?  Personally I feel badly knowing what I know now about the dangerous chemicals that were in the relaxers that I put onto my daughters’ heads when they were younger. I’ve since learned that the products marketed for young black girls was some of the worst on the market, even if they touted words like “organic.”  To my defense,  I did so under duress and pressure as my husband heard their painful cries as I tried to comb through their thick hair.  They’d be screaming at the top of their lungs, “You’re hurting me,” with tears streaming down their little faces.  It wasn’t a pretty site and it was a horrible experience for them.  Sure it looked good after I finished, but the pain wasn’t worth the gain.  I gave in and I have to admit, it made life easier.  I straightened their hair so that I would not cause them that much pain and to make life easier for me. I am so happy that there are now so many products out there to help us manage our hair. Now, they are used to long straight hair because that’s what they’ve grown up with and who wants to fight their hair every day?

  1. Do you wear your hair natural?
  2. Do you love your natural hair?  Why or Why Not?
  3. Are you treated differently or feel differently if you wear your hair natural?
  4. Who do you get the most positive feedback from?
  5. What about the worse feedback, who does it come from?
  6. How do you feel about natural hair?
  7. What about dreads, how do you feel about them on yourself or others?
  8. What about black people dye their hair blond?
  9. What about other cultures getting dreads?
  10. Tell me what you think about hair?

This concludes our series on hair.  I think it’s great that our hair is so versatile that we can choose a style that fits our desired image.  I can twist mine one day, wear an Afro the next, and have it straight on the third day if I want.  The important thing is to choose what makes you feel the best and not to please others or to “fit in” as many in my generation tried to do.

I’m Barbara Talley, the poet who speaks and inspires.  To find out more about me check out: What Does Barbara Do? or visit  my website.

What Message Does Hair Communicate?



There’s so much talk about loving what God gave us when it comes to hair and then there is reality. I just Googled ‘hair’ and clicked on images, and browsed through 150 pictures before seeing a picture of a model with natural black hair on page 6. Rihanna was on page three with straightened hair. Finally on page 8 there were several, I paused to reflect on the imagery of the photos and the placement.  How many people click through 8 pages of searches?  The image to the left, is ” no comment.”  The image to the right which was next to it shows someone looking annoyed at her hair.  What message is this sending.  I think she looks beautiful.

Weaving and Dreading

I know, “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.  But media influences perceptions.  Also on the page was a picture of a black woman selling weave hair with a caption that really reinforced the negative media perceptions of black folks. You’ll have to search for it yourself.  Type in “hair’ and go to page eight and while you’re at it, type in “dreads” and tell me what you think of the images portrayed.  I have my own opinion, but I’d love to hear yours.

I’m Barbara Talley, the poet who speaks and inspires.  To find out more about me check out: What Does Barbara Do? or visit  my website.

Love Your Natural + Resources for “Going Natural”

This post is primarily aimed at those who’ve gone natural or dreaded their hair.  What kinds of responses did (or do) to get from others?  Have you noticed a difference?  I’ve heard the comments.  My nephew was discouraged or at most “tolerated” for wanting to dread his hair.  Fortunately he had a mother who wore dreads and she supported his desire to wear his hear however he wanted it.  But, what’s up with those that discouraged him? Most said that it was because they wanted to protect him from the racism he would experience.  I don’t doubt that that is a valid premise, but how much do we need to give up to be accepted?  And if we are only accepted by changing ourselves, are we really being accepted?   Most cultures can get up, get in the shower, wash and shake their hair, and go.

Who Needs to Accept, Us or Them?

I know that twenty and thirty years ago I straightened my hair to fit in.  That’s what the women around me did and so did I.  A funny thing happened though a couple of years ago, I cut my hair for a photo shoot and decided to not relax it anymore.  After the relaxed hair grew out and was cut off, I found my own natural texture and I “loved it.”  Now I can blow dry it straight when I want a different look and wear natural when I want to. To think I was putting those toxic chemicals on my scalp for years and didn’t even need to.  And, as I got older, I was adding dye too when I could have used a natural henna.  I had done it so long that I didn’t realize the world had changed but I hadn’t, for people that were not of African American heritage actually liked my hair and commented more positively than “my own peeps.”

Resources for Going Natural

I also remember feeling very weird and out of place at an African American event at Howard University when most people were natural and at the time my hair was relaxed.  One of the presenters actually made a comment about us people with “fried hair.”  Fortunately, now we have more support if we wish to go natural, from sites like Naturally Curly, Carol’s Daughter, Curly Nikki , and Uncle Funky’s Daughter. I know in the past I relaxed my hair and my daughters’ hair because it was easier to maintain.  We probably were also subconsciously programmed to think that we “looked better too”.  Now we’ve got resources to help with the transition if we choose that route.  But, the goal is to love yourself and feel free enough to choose your way of expressing yourself without judgement.  Well that’s our food for thought for today.

I’m Barbara Talley, the poet who speaks and inspires.  To find out more about me check out: What Does Barbara Do? or visit  my website.